In May I went to New York hoping to learn some things: about the world, about myself, about life in general. Lofty goals, probably, but in fact I did learn things. They may be self-evident to some (in which case, lucky you), but I am a delicate soul, and writing these lessons down helps to cement them into my brain.
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You Will Never Find Anything New Sitting in Your Flat (no matter how international your internet usage)
On my last full day in New York, I had some time to kill on the Lower East Side and I wandered into McNally Jackson, the bookshop on Prince Street. Bookshops always get me excited – I feel like a whole world opens up every time I go into one. Downstairs, a crowd of people were gathering (people who gather in bookshops are usually people I want to gather alongside) for a panel titled How to be Creative Online.

The panel featured a selection of bloggers I had never heard of, but the premise sounded interesting and I had time, so I sat down. All of a sudden I was introduced to Brain Pickings (the inspiringly curated site by Maria Popova), Maris Kreizman's Slaughterhouse 90210, and a group of people who consistently mentioned my favourite writers (Muriel Spark, E.B. White etc.) as their favourite influences. It was a random encounter, but it opened up a world I would probably never have tapped into from my desk in my flat, and it taught me a lesson: the internet can only take you so far.
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Being a Tourist is Just Showing Appreciation (and is nothing to be ashamed of)
When I travel, I want to see what the locals see, and learn the 'rules' of a place as quickly as possible so as not to stand out or (worse) be an irritation. Being a photo-taking, middle-of-the-sidewalk-stopping tourist is the direct opposite of that. I started off feeling incredibly frustrated at my lack of knowledge, and tried to hide it. Other tourists would approach me and ask for directions – despite knowing as little as they did, I would hilariously try to direct them, then spend all afternoon feeling awful about probably giving them terrible advice. I should have owned up, but I was kind of ashamed to.

But after more than one afternoon spent castigating myself for my bad direction giving and writing about my feelings on tourism here, I've come to realise that tourists have a value all of their own. As Dottie put it in her perfectly insightful comment on my post: "Their energy is contagious ... now I embrace my role as a traveller and focus on being an enthusiastic one." I can't think of a better attitude to have.
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Everyone has a Story (and they want to tell it, too)
Despite the fact that I have a blog, I am a confirmed under-sharer: if ever I get into the position of telling someone a story, I get about halfway through it before I start to panic that I'm wasting their time. Similarly, when people hint about their own fascinating stories and experiences, I rarely pluck up the courage to ask about them.

In New York though, I noticed that people really do love to tell their own tales (especially if they are tales of woe). In a diner, I overheard a guy saying to his friend: "Everyone has a New York apartment story, so here's mine" as if having a story like that, the more gruesome the better, was a real step on the ladder to becoming a fully-fledged New Yorker – if you didn't tell it, no one would know!

At the Moth Story Slam (the open mic story-telling nights), people were desperate to tell their stories, and people (like me) paid to listen to them. It was like therapy for everyone. At one Story Slam, I sat next to a guy who had been practicing his story for weeks. He had tried it out on his friends, worked on the feedback, and then he had come to The Moth and put his name in the hat. But his name didn't get called. He was incredibly disappointed – he wanted to tell his story; I was too – I wanted to hear it.

The lesson it taught me was not to be afraid to ask people about their lives – by and large, people love to tell their stories to people who are interested, and if you don't ask, you might miss out on something incredible. More importantly though, it taught me not to panic when telling my own stories (like this one, for example). By and large, people do actually want to hear them.



I've often seen people talking about getting to a point every so often where they feel 'blog-lost', and while I only do a post once a week (at best!), that has never actually happened to me before, until two weeks ago. I can only hold Andy Murray's lack of Wimbledon win responsible. 

At any rate, here is a post for getting 'blog-found' again. I've been re-appreciating Instagram recently, for two reasons: first, the sun has finally come back to England and second, Kristina's post on iPhone photography apps. Before reading that post, I had really no idea that there were so many options for iPhone photographs, and I was skeptical at first, but I am now a confirmed and serious fan of Snapseed (simple photoshop for phones), Squareready (for those satisfying white borders), and, if I feel like it, Duomatic (for super-fake double exposures). 


The sun returning to drippy England has meant blooms, artichokes, other people's hot air ballooning adventures, and (finally) cold brew coffee. I've resisted doing cold brew while the weather has been so miserable, as I know I just wouldn't appreciate it as it should be! 

You can't buy cold brew coffee in Bristol yet (it may have caught on in London already, though I'm not sure) so brewing it yourself is the only option. I used this recipe (which I found via Kate) but instead of double filtering through filters (which gets all clogged up and labour intensive) I brewed it overnight in a cafetiere, plunged it in the morning, and then used the filter, which works much more quickly. The way I've been describing it is that it is like the coffee taste you get from coffee cake; if you haven't already tried it, you really must.

Anyway, here's to the sunshine – long may it last – and here's to getting blog-found again: long may that last too. 




I'm always careful who I admit my obsession with Wimbledon to. Mainly because it's such a shamefully serious one. It  started with school summer holidays, when there were only four television channels and a Scottish summer to entertain my sister and I for eight weeks every year. The only thing to watch for two of them was Wimbledon, so we just decided we'd better just learn the rules and start watching. 

So I spent all the precious sunny days of my school summer holidays inside, glued to our tiny television, watching Sampras and Ivanisevic and Hingis and Davenport. In the rain delays, I'd pass the time walloping a ball against the house, hoping that one of the aforementioned might just happen to be passing, notice my latent tennis skill, and whisk me away to tennis school.

This never happened, evidently, but those summers have left me now with a serious need to watch as many Wimbledon matches as I possibly can. 

There's probably nothing more stereotypical to sustain this than these little pots of English strawberries, but I'm quite happy to go with that. I'll reflex-eat them on their own, or more slowly, with sugar sprinkled on top. If I'm lucky though and Ben has reached tennis saturation point and needs some kitchen time, I get to eat them with meringues, strawberry syrup and vanilla yoghurt, heaped into a pile.

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Nothing signifies quite how different New York and Bristol are to me the way my new umbrella does. It's funny really, as when it rained in NY, I huddled under a ridiculously tiny umbrella all month – every time I decided to just bite the bullet and buy a proper one, the sun came out.

I bought this one on my last day in New York, which was sunny and hot and beautiful, and when I definitely didn't need one. I definitely need it now. It has poured with rain all month in England, so that the trees are green and drippy, and my umbrella is always by my side – and when I put this one up, the sun never comes out.

I brought a couple of other things back with me, all of them green too, coincidentally.